Victoria's Secret's "Go East" Goes Away

Hardly known for being tasteful, Victoria's Secret hit a new low earlier this month with its "Sexy Little Geisha" lingerie. As Nina Jacinto put it on Racialicious, "It's the kind of overt racism masked behind claims of inspired fashion and exploring sexual fantasy that makes my skin crawl." This offensive cloud has a silver lining, however: Thanks to the power of the Internet and righteously pissed off consumers, the godawful bra, underwear, obi, and chopsticks(!?) set is no longer for sale.

a white woman wearing the sexy geisha lingerie on the VS website
What. The. Hell.

Though no one at Victoria's Secret is willing to admit that the $98 set was removed due to backlash, it is no longer available on the store's website and links to the product now lead directly to the homepage. Apparently, "your ticket to an exotic adventure," as the ad copy called it, went nowhere. As it should, because even marketing a "Sexy Little Geisha" outfit in the first place was in such unbelievably poor taste that it's hard to believe it made it through what had to be multiple rounds of product testing and approvals.

It certainly appears that someone at Victoria's Secret listened to Jacinto and the other bloggers who called bullshit on this bullshit "Go East" line, which is great. It would be even better if that person would acknowledge it, give credit where it's due, and refrain from selling racist bullshit in the future, but that might be too much to ask. Especially considering that Victoria's Secret is still selling part of its Cherry Blossoms line encouraging consumers to "indulge in touches of eastern delight."

Even if Victoria's Secret is still peddling problematic products (it is), the removal of the "Sexy Little Geisha" set is a reminder that speaking up and speaking out online really can make a difference.

by Kelsey Wallace
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9 Comments Have Been Posted

No surprise

Sadly, VS, exploitation of women turning them into sexual objects to sell us our underwear, clearly wasn't exciting enough. Now they can go offend more people.

I don't recall men parading around while their private parts are busting out on display, again, and again, and again. I don't shop there nor do I even walk by that end of the mall due to the giant images of women's breasts everywhere.

Women are not idiots. We don't need to be exploited to check out clothing.

Argument please!

Hi there,

I'd love to hear the argument of how Geisha-inspired lingerie is racist.

Geisha were/are sexy ladies, and lingerie inspired by a sexy profession seems to me to be apropos.

How is this lingerie any more or less racist than southern brothel-inspired lingerie? Lingerie that looks like a nursing outfit of yesteryear? What about lingerie with Hawaiian florals on it?

If escorts or prostitutes in, say, England, wore a certain attire, and VS created lingerie that mimicked that attire, would it be racist?

Perhaps some of the ad copy and marketing was in bad taste, but is this lingerie actually racist lingerie or lingerie inspired by a sexy profession that happens to come from Japan?



You really need a breakdown?

"Perhaps some of the ad copy and marketing was in bad taste, but is this lingerie actually racist lingerie or lingerie inspired by a sexy profession that happens to come from Japan?"

It's not simply "bad taste"--it's the same old Orientalist bullsh*t narrative that we keep hearing whenever someone tries to market one of these tacky outfits. The caricature being sold to us, coupled with the language of exoticism, perpetuates the cultural stereotype of the sexy, subservient Asian woman.

It's also not simply "a sexy profession that happens to come from Japan." Look up the word "geisha." It's a complex and interesting profession that ranges from sex workers to highly respected artists or entertainers. To reduce the profession to a stereotype is demeaning for the women employed as geishas.

"If escorts or prostitutes in, say, England, wore a certain attire, and VS created lingerie that mimicked that attire, would it be racist?"

The bottom line is that there is no comparison to geishas in Western countries. There is no such thing as "English sex worker costume" being marketed to the American public. Some people have pointed out that a French maid outfit is comparable, but it really isn't. What's more, England or France has never come to be defined by the images that Americans have appropriated and sold in the same way that these images have defined Asian countries and their women--and, by extension, Asian American women.

First thing first, a geisha

First thing first, a geisha is not a sexy profession. To take from wikipedia:
"Geisha are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance and games."
now of course we cannot deny that the topic of sex might appear in the lives of girls working on providing (what is supposed to be) clean hospitality to men.

What I'm trying to say here is then that our modern and dare I say western perception of a geisha has been skewed for us to see them as nothing but a high class prostitute. And this kind of thing done by VS only serves to fuel the fire of misconception.

In the broader scope of the problem, it is unsettling to see a culture's traditional dress to be seen as a sex fantasy. That we are a costume to be put on in a sexual role play. It is very different to see appreciate the beauty of a woman in a kimono (and other traditional garbs) and to put on a sexualized version of it and perpetuate a skewed and wrong idea of Asian woman (eg. dragon lady, incredibly submissive woman, kinky prostitutes etc)

No. Just no.

I will preface this by saying that 1. I have never watched nor read "Memoirs of a Geisha," and 2. I do not think I am Japanese. And I also want to say that even if I was into distasteful and racist lingerie, that set is butt ugly and I wouldn't let it come into a one mile radius of me.

Yeah, I said it. It's racist. If you have to think about it too long then you aren't paying attention. This bascially cheapens the idea of a Geisha into something you can buy to please your significant other. It's just another part of this awful trend of oversexualizing Asian women that needs to stop.

Also, any kind of costume made for women that has the word "sexy" in it creeps me out. Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I want everyone to constantly attribute my job to my sex life. Sure it's all fun and games because they're costumes, EXCEPT women are still getting paid 77-61 cents for every dollar a man gets paid. So, yes, when we are respected as workers, maybe then I'll lighten up.



-Does all role-playing, costumed sexy time cheapen and degrade those they mimic? To not cheapen "the idea" of a Geisha, would a woman or man have to dress up in the full traditional costume for role-playing, masturbation, sex-play or sex?

"This bascially cheapens the idea of a Geisha into something you can buy TO PLEASE YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER.":

-Couldn't it be to please yourself? Who says the lingerie isn't worn alone for fun alone-time?

I don't necessarily think

I don't necessarily think this is a great product, but I don't agree that sexualizing a Japanese profession is racist. If we do it to a western profession (God, like every single female profession out there) it's either benign/sexist, yet if we do it to a female profession of a different culture it's just racist. It seems slightly racist in itself that instead of raging about about how they're sexualizing WOMEN and particularly our Japanese sisters we're basically turning it into an us them not really the same thing where it's okay to sexualize western women and not okay to sexualize them. I see terms like "the exotic east" to be problematic and racist, but I don't think creating a sexy geisha costume is inherently racist.

I concur w/ miniluv

VS sexualizes Western, Eastern, Southern, Northern, exotic, non-exotic, female professions, hobbies, designations, beings. VS sexualizes women. It provides accessories for women who want to sexualize themselves a certain way, the way VS provides for them. The way magazines tells us to sexualize ourselves.

I don't think a sexy geisha outfit is inherently racist either. Just as costumes/lingerie inspired by stereotypes of French maids, Cleopatra, Middle Eastern belly dancers, Bollywood dancers, etc. aren't inherently racist.

VS sells two types of [heteronormative] sexuality: a diminutive sex kitten or an assertive sex-tigress, no matter the profession, culture, nation, historical event, movie, etc. they are ripping off.

This Geisha lingerie isn't promoting a damaging vision of Japanese sexuality (diminutive, placating, cute, gentle) any more than their French maid costume is (diminutive, placating, cute, gentle). That is the sexuality they promote, period! Unless of course they're promoting the sex tigress sexuality, but then of course the lingerie would be leopard-print. :)

Geisha lingerie

People are offended by Asian whore inspired lingerie with a geisha theme?
Seems legit...

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